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Zeljko Petrovic has no doubt that Feyenoord will become national champions this season. And who makes the big difference compared to the competition? He also speaks openly about this: Arne Slot. “The best coach in the Netherlands and a true gentleman.”
Petrovic himself worked for two spells at Feyenoord. Since the first, the 2004-2005 season under Ruud Gullit, many things have changed, according to the former assistant. “He is so professionalized. We trained on a training ground in the parking lot in front of De Kuip. Now they can work quietly in a beautiful training complex. The club has developed in all aspects.”
Petrovic’s second spell at Feyenoord was not that long ago: in the 2020-2021 season he was an assistant to Dick Advocaat. A changing sporting period, in which he did not see the successes of this and last season coming.
I’m not saying that Slot is now achieving success thanks to us, but we have done some groundwork.
“With Advocaat, Kökçü was still a starting player. Geertruida has now conquered a starting position. With us, the best player, Sinisterra, was injured for a long time, but we continue to give him confidence. I’m not saying that Slot is now achieving success thanks to us, but we’ve done some legwork. That’s almost always how it works when one staff follows the other.”
“Slot has further developed the team with his own idea of playing football. The physical shape of the team, the way of playing with a lot of pressure, a high pace and a good structure in the team. What he does is unprecedented. I think it’s a pleasure to watch. Also, Slot has the weapon factor. An orderly boy, good with his words. Fantastic”.
Petrovic is also satisfied with the Slot assistants. He still worked with John de Wolf and Marino Pusic is a good friend of his. “Pusic has done well everywhere, at FC Twente and at AZ. The fact that Slot took him from AZ to Feyenoord says a lot. He is doing very well.”
“And John suits his role. He has no ego, doesn’t make demands and talks behind nobody’s back. He does everything for the players. I enjoyed working with him. They didn’t send him on the field for nothing, the lightest incident against Ajax for address the fans. I hope the club never forgets that and that he stays at Feyenoord for his entire career.”
With that, Petrovic himself broached the subject of the ‘cigarette lighter incident’. A big stain on an almost flawless season. Does Petrovic think this takes the shine off a possible national title? “No, Feyenoord are doing too well for that. What else can be said about it? It’s sad for something like this to happen. The club, the staff and the players don’t deserve it.”
“There are people everywhere who screw things up. And everything you say about it, everyone interprets it differently or incorrectly. I just want to say that I think it’s great that Ajax finished the game. And that he has to stop that the good fans among those few bad sufferers”.
Petrovic prefers to talk about what happens on the field. About the two best players this season, for example, Kökçü and Giménez. “Kökçü has matured. He puts good balls between the lines, he plays faster forward and now he wins balls. And Giménez has developed stormily.
“Also, I like to see how Geertruida and Hartman develop. I like the pace Hartman sets in attack. I wish Geertruida a top transfer. He is a very nice guy.”
‘The blockade can last for years’
But first they become champions with Feyenoord, says Petrovic. “I don’t doubt it for a second. Feyenoord is the rightful champion. And I hope Slot stays normal after that. There will probably be good clubs for him, but Feyenoord is also a good club.”
“Feyenoord is going to get stronger with the money from the Champions League. Then Slot can stay here for many years. Now he can go to a club in England, where he has to fight against relegation. Or he stays at Feyenoord, he becomes He is champion again and then he goes to a foreign elite club where he plays for the prizes. He deserves it.”